Brooke Henderson says she doesn’t resent that she had to earn her way into the LPGA ranks with a victory.
While there was a social media uproar among fans believing the 17-year-old Canadian deserved a waiver of the LPGA’s age restriction long before she won the Cambia Portland Classic last weekend, Henderson wasn’t among the discontent. She wasn’t bitter her petition for a waiver of the rule requiring members be 18 years old was denied last year, keeping her out of LPGA Q-School in December.
“I think it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me,” Henderson said Tuesday at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open. “It really made me realize what I really wanted in life, and what I really desired, and it made me work really, really hard. It made me focus and be more determined. This way it feels a lot better knowing that I deserve to be out here.”
With commissioner Mike Whan granting Henderson’s petition for an age waiver Tuesday, she will tee it up Thursday in Canada as a tour member. She had the option of deferring the membership to next year, but she chose to take it immediately. She needed the waiver as she doesn’t turn 18 until Sept. 10.
By taking up membership now, Henderson gets priority status this year and next year. But she’s officially a rookie this season. None of the $661,264 she won as a non-member in 10 starts this season counts as official. She begins anew this week with zero dollars as a member and zero Rolex Rookie of the Year points.
If Henderson had deferred membership, she would be considered a rookie next year. By deferring, she would have gained membership for 2016 only, but she would have been the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year.
Why not defer membership?
“Having the opportunity to start living my dream today instead of five months from now, I'm definitely going to take it today, because it's an opportunity that not a lot of people get,” Henderson said. “We thought about it hard with my team, IMG, and my family and friends close to me, and we've come to a decision that I can start living my dream today. I can work hard to try and get into those Asian swing events in just a couple weeks.”
Henderson has three events – Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, Yokohama Tire Classic, Evian Championship – to try to get among the top 62 money winners who qualify for the Sime Darby Classic, the start of the Fall Asian swing. Depending who skips Sime Darby, she may not actually have to rank that high in money. All the Asian swing events are tough to get into with limited fields, as is the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico, where a top-26 money standard is set.
Henderson is reveling in the fact that she gets to come home to Canada to make her first start as an LPGA member. Her first start in an LPGA event came at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open when she was 14.
“Amazing timing,” Henderson said. “I don’t think it could have worked out any better.”